(Pictured) The Tampa Riverwalk is one of the city's many attractions
The best-known part of the Panhandle is probably Pensacola and its Naval Air Station, home to the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team, among other large military bases. But what the Panhandle is really famed for is its uncrowded white-sand beaches.
Over in Miramar Beach, the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort is building a new 250-room meetings hotel on its 2,400-acre property, right next to the 30,000-square-foot Baytowne Conference Center. The Sandestin Hotel will have more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 13,000-square-foot ballroom, when it opens in 2020.
The Emerald Coast
The bright-green waters of the Emerald Coast, on the Panhandle between Panama City and Pensacola, have to be experienced to be believed. Along with white-sand beaches, there is the Emerald Coast Convention Center on Fort Walton Beach, with 80,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 21,000-square-foot Emerald Grand Ballroom.
Saddlebrook Resort & Spa
Along with its executive challenge course, Saddlebrook is home of the Tampa Tennis Academy and 45 courts, including all four Grand Slam championship surfaces. Saddlebrook offers a variety of group tennis options, including Round Robin tournaments, instruction and free play time.
Florida's Gulf Coast offers some of the best sugar-white-sand beaches in the country and a laid-back attitude, without giving up the excitement of big cities and the charm of small towns.TAMPA
Tampa is a metropolitan city rich in history, the arts, sports, gastronomy, outdoor activities and event venues. Visitors should visit some of its many neighborhoods for their strong character, starting with its National Historic Landmark District, Ybor City.
Marriott's new 175-room AC Hotel Tampa Airport, in the Westshore District, has four flexible meeting rooms with 2,400 square feet of space.
January marked the arrival of the 276-room Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa, which offers expansive bay views and 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, as well as a pool deck.
The 325-room Westshore Grand, a Marriott Tribute Portfolio property, offers 17,000 square feet of flexible event space and hosts groups of up to 700.
The 310-room Tampa Marriott Westshore Hotel wrapped a $20 million renovation earlier this year.
The 309-room Westin Tampa Waterside, formerly the Westin Harbour Island, underwent an $18 million renovation in late 2017. It emerged with a new restaurant and 18,032 square feet of meeting space.
A $40 million renovation has left downtown's largest hotel, the 727-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, with a new look and a floor of new Stay Well rooms. Adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center, it has 43,229 square feet of event space.
The newly renovated 277-room Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel features 14,849 square feet of meeting and event space. A hotel-wide remake of its rooms, pool area and lobby has given it a great new vibe.
Steps from the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk has modernized 10 floors of rooms and will do the rest this year. It has 5,000 square feet of meeting space.
Construction is underway on the new Current, a 180-room, beachfront Autograph Collection by Marriott property.
Coming in 2020, the 519-room JW Marriott Tampa will add greatly to the room product available across the street from the Tampa Convention Center. The five-star property will have 126,000 square feet of meeting space and the city's highest rooftop bar.
The five-star, 173-room Tampa Edition will be co-located with the JW Marriott as part of the massive Water Street Tampa project when it opens in 2021
Chicago's Aparium Hotel Group is planning a 176-room, $52 million boutique hotel at the corner of E. Seventh Avenue at 15th Street in Ybor City.
Clearwater Beach's beautiful white sands have been honored for the second time in three years as the best beach in the United States by TripAdvisor, and ranked seventh in the world overall. And Caladesi Island State Park took seventh place on the Top 10 Beaches in America list by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach.
Relatively new in town is the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, which opened in January 2017. The 343-room property has 22,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including 12 meeting rooms.
Scheduled to open this month, the Mediterranean-style Fenway Hotel in Dunedin has been undergoing a $30 million renovation to its 1920s roots that will see the 83-room waterfront property become a member of Marriott International's Autograph Collection. It has 11,126 square feet of meeting space.
In St. Pete Beach, the Sirata Beach Resort will finish up a $15 million renovation later this year that includes a major makeover of its 382 guest rooms and the property's 30,000 square feet of meeting and event space, as well as the combination of its two pools.
In celebration of its 90th anniversary 277-room The Don CeSar -- also known as the Pink Palace -- is beginning a multi-phase renovation and reconfiguration of the public space of the main resort, having wrapped a similar project on its 70-suite sister property, Beach House Suites by The Don CeSar. The Don CeSar has 38,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
The historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel, which dates to the late 19th century, is being reimagined as the 35-room Belleview Inn. Set to open in December, it will feature a meeting room, an outdoor event lawn and a pool deck.FORT MYERS
The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village meeting facilities have grown to 30,120 square feet over 11 meeting rooms, thanks to the addition of the $15 million Tarpon Point Ballroom, with 12,250 square feet and the ability to accommodate up to 1,400, as well as an expansive terrace. It has 293 guest rooms, including 180 suites.
The Island Inn on Sanibel Island has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation of its Matthew Lodge, which now has 12 Gulf-view suites with private balconies. It has 49 guest rooms and 550 feet of beachfront.
The Luminary Hotel & Co. plans to open with 237 rooms and 8,000 square feet of event space in late 2019 or early 2020. It will have a direct connection to the 40,000-square-foot Harborside Event Center, itself currently undergoing a renovation and scheduled to open for 2020 events. It will be part of Marriott International's Autograph Collection.
A 354-room outpost of Margaritaville Resorts is in the planning stages near the Times Square area of Fort Myers Beach, with an opening scheduled for early 2021.NAPLES AND MARCO ISLAND
After getting clobbered by Hurricane Irma last September, Florida's Paradise Coast has seen a renaissance as many damaged properties found a silver lining by embarking on larger renovation and expansion projects.
The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort's $320 million renovation was already underway when the hurricane hit, and next month will see the grand opening of the 94-room, adults-only Lanai Tower, bringing the room count to 810. The property now has more than 100,000 square feet of event space.
The 310-room Hilton Marco Island Resort & Spa reopens this fall with completely renovated guest rooms, as well as a redesigned lobby and pool deck, new restaurant and 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
The Ritz-Carlton, Naples reopened in September after an extensive renovation of the façade, spa and more than 42,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
Fresh off 2016 and 2017 renovation and expansion projects, the 50-year-old, 189-room LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort just wrapped a $30 million renovation. It has 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
The Naples Grande Beach Resort just completed a $3 million renovation of its 83,000 square feet of meeting and event space, while the 92-room Marco Beach Ocean Resort has updated its suites and 2,400-square-foot Gulf Ballroom. It has 10,000 square feet in all.
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This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.